Role based views using css and javascript

In web applications, role based views are normally done using server side if..else tags etc. When developing pure javascript clients, one way of doing role based views is again using javascript conditionals. This approach suffers from the fact that role-related code is scattered throughout the document. Another simple way to achieve the same is using css classes.

Let us assume that we have three roles, ADMIN and USER and GUEST. Then we will define three css classes as follows:

Now consider the following html doc, that has css classes attached to elements according to the current user’s role.

At this stage if you load the document in a browser, you will not see anything as nothing all the roles are invisible. So lets spruce this up with a bit of javascript to set proper css class properties.

If a cookie role is set that represents the current user’s role then adding the above snippet of code will enable all the elements tagged with css class .role_{roleCookie} to be visible.

Even though this is a very simple implementation, we can modify it easily to take into account more complex scenarios. For example, if you have completely ordered role based visibility (access level), i.e. given role R1 and R2, we can always tell which role has more visibility, then we can extend as follows:

$(document).ready(function() {
    // We are assuming that jQuery and jQuery Cookie plugin are included in the doc

    var role = $.cookie('user_role'); // Should return one of 'ADMIN', 'USER' OR 'GUEST'

    // set property for relevant css class
    if(role == "ADMIN") {
        // make everything visible
        $("<style type='text/css'>.role_admin, .role_user, .role_guest {display:block} </style>").appendTo("head");

    } else if(app.role == "USER") {
        // make user and guest part visible, admin part will remain invisible
        $("<style type='text/css'>.role_user, .role_guest {display:block} </style>").appendTo("head");

    } else if(app.role == "GUEST") {
        // only show the guest part
        $("<style type='text/css'>.role_guest {display:block} </style>").appendTo("head");

Caution: One thing to note here is that all the parts of the document are sent to all the users, only what is visible on the browser is role based. So, server side authorisation checks will always be there as nothing stops a suspecting user from looking into the source and firing that dreaded request.

Minifying Javascript/css without changing file references in your source

Rule 10 of Steve Souders High Performance Web Sites: Minify Javascript

The most common problem faced while implemnting this is how you handle the full and minified version and how to change there reference in referencing documents. One of the easier ways to do this is to make it part of the deployment process.

Here are the relevent steps involved.

I’m using YUI Compressor.

#Execute this script after checking out the latest source from repository.
#Minify all javascript files
cd /path/to/javascript
for x in `ls *.js`
        java -jar /path/to/compressor/yuicompressor-2.4.2.jar -o ${x%%.*}-min.js --preserve-semi  $x
#Minfiy all css files
cd /path/to/css
for x in `ls *.css`
        java -jar /path/to/compressor/yuicompressor-2.4.2.jar -o ${x%%.*}-min.css  $x

Now you don’t want to replace all references to x.css or x.js in your development code with references to x-min.css and x-min.js respectively. So what you can do is rewrite all those filenames at the web server level.

For apache the following rewrite rules work fine:

#enable rewriting
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule /(.*)\.js /$1-min.js
RewriteRule /(.*)\.css /$1-min.css

Caution: Remember to delete existing minified css/js file before running the minifying script or you will end up with file names like x-min-min-min.js and so on. One way to do this is to clear the js/css folder before checking out files from your source repository.